Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Charcoal - But in COLOR

tinted charcoal colorsA few months ago I discovered an amazing new product from Derwent. They have taken charcoal and mixed it with various clays to produce tinted charcoal. I've tested them out on drawing paper to show the different colors. Most of the colors are very subtle greens, browns and blues.

They definitely have the feel of charcoal, and they blend well. I'm testing out making new colors by layering and blending the existing ones, and it seems to work pretty well. I do wonder how they compare to pastel pencils, as I have not tried those before.

Look forward to some colored works from me in the near future. I already have plans for one drawing and can't wait to get to it (I'll give a hint - it's another primate).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unicorns of the Ocean

I recently read an article in the Smithsonian magazine about narwhals. I had heard about them before, but the article got me thinking about a new drawing. It had to be an underwater scene, of course, so I jumped on the chance to use a colored background. I picked out a smooth, dark blue matboard for this piece and used mostly white charcoal with a touch of black charcoal. I think I'll be adding color like this more often.

Prints are available, and you can purchase the original here:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Colors of Conte

After my experiments with sepia I decided to see what other colors are out there. So far I've picked up these three Conte colors: sepia, bistre, and sanguine. Sepia and bistre are very close, but sepia is just a bit redder. Sanguine looks a bit more like rust. In these samples, the left side is hard pressure, middle is light pressure, and the right is blended with a tortillon.

In a few days I'll have some more colors to show off, from a different brand.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WIP Reef - Plate Coral, Staghorn Coral, and...

coral reef colored pencil drawing in progress
Wow, I can't believe it, but all the coral and fish are done! In this step I have added three new species: plate coral (Montipora sp.), staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), and silhouettes of two manta rays (Manta birostris).

plate coral, staghorn coral, manta rays colored pencil drawing in progressPlate corals are called that because they look like plates (I love how so many corals have such easy names). Some grow so large that they are called table coral. They grow flat to maximize their exposure to sunlight, which aids the symbiotic algae within them. The polyps eat zooplankton in addition to using energy from the algae. The color of plate coral is usually dull, though there are a few colorful species. For these, I used light umber, dark brown, French gray 10%, and olive green, with black for shadows.

Staghorn coral look like deer antlers. Their branches provide protection for many tiny fish. These coral are highly susceptible to changes in their habitats, and will often expel the algae as a stress response. The result is a white coral, called bleached, that is a clear sign of an unhealthy or dying area of a reef. Because these corals in particular are so prone to stress and bleaching, they are highly endangered. I used three shades of French gray to create these corals.

Manta rays are the largest rays. They are filter feeders, feeding mainly on plankton and other tiny organisms, but it is interesting to note that they still retain vestigial teeth. A thick layer of mucous on their skin protects it from injury. Sharks are their main predator. Since the rays here are just silhouettes in the distance, I covered them lightly with black for now. I'll finish them when the water goes in.

So I guess that's it. I'm going to put this aside for a bit while I decide what to do with the water. I have a couple charcoal drawings I've been thinking about lately anyway. So probably the next time you see a post on the reef, it'll be finished!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WIP Reef - Fairy Basslets

coral reef colored pencil drawing in progressI saw a photo from the Great Barrier Reef with these tiny little orange fish in it, and knew I had to put them in my drawing. I couldn't find out what they were, though, until a trip to the New England Aquarium. These fish are orange fairy basslets (Pseudanthias squamipinnis), apparently an uncommon color based on the number of Google image hits I get, also called sea goldies or lyretail coralfish. They are 3-7 inches long and live in very large schools. So large, in fact, that I think I'll be adding a bunch more to my drawing.

orange fairy basslets, lyretail coralfish, sea goldies drawingAlthough these guys are very small, there is a lot of color packed in each one. I used a base of poppy red on top, limepeel on the belly, deco yellow on the yellow parts, and Spanish orange everywhere else. Tuscan red outlines the eyes with a black center, and the stripe behind the eye is process red. I layered orange on top of the body.


Monday, May 11, 2009

WIP Reef - Red Lionfish and Sea Anemones

sea anemones drawingI've been working on the area behind the white and red soft coral. Under one of the brain corals I have added four or five anemones, two pink and a mass of green and purple. Anemones are known for their slight sting for catching food and for the small fish (like clownfish) that live inside them. Anemones attach to their support by a "foot," and the tentacles are at the top like a flowery hat. They range greatly in color and size. Unlike coral, an anemone is a single animal, complete with primitive muscles, nerves and digestive system. They reproduce both sexually and asexually.

red lionfish colored pencil drawingThe red lionfish, Pterois volitans, is an extremely poisonous fish native to the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. They are characterized by their reddish stripes and their fan-like fins. Averaging about 15 inches long, they prefer the cover of the reef to more open water, cornering their prey among the coral. They eat small fish.


Monday, May 04, 2009

WIP Reef - Brain Coral

coral reef colored pencil drawing in progress
I've been so busy lately, working on a commission and other projects I've posted, that I didn't even realize until recently that it's been almost four months since I last worked on my coral reef! So now that the commission is done, I'm going to devote some serious time to this colored pencil project.

brain coral colored pencil drawingMy most recent addition is a set of four brain corals (family Faviidae), a group of corals so named because they look like brains - round with swirls of ridges and valleys. The polyps organize themselves into the ridges. The color can vary with the species, though most often they appear greyish. They are a hard, sturdy coral that helps build reefs. The polyps of brain coral feed on the algae that live within them, small organisms that come into contact with them, or even other organisms that float by using long "sweeper tentacles." They feed at night.

I used apple green, cream, yellow ochre, light umber and dark umber.